The possible impact of Brexit on all aspects of English life is currently being hotly discussed and considered.
Among those aspects is the game that is arguably at the heart of the country’s cultural life: football. Here, as in many other areas, Britain’s departure from the European Union could mean dramatic changes. The extent to which those changes will have an adverse effect depend on what kind of deal can be reached by the powers that be before March 29, 2019.
Climate of uncertainty
Of course, right now the exact impact Brexit will have on English football is unknown, as the terms for a Brexit deal have yet to be worked out. However, many premier league managers and officials are concerned that after Brexit it may be much more difficult to sign the European players that are the lifeblood of many top English squads.
Under the current system, players from within the European Economic Area (EEA) can sign to an English club without needing a work permit. Players from outside the EEA do need a work permit however, and to get it they have to meet a number of strict criteria. Unless the Football Association can work out a special arrangement with the UK government, it would follow that after Brexit European players would have to apply for a permit just like non-EEA players, and it’s feared that many would not meet the required criteria, regardless of their obvious talent.
Many of the finest players and the top goal scorers for English clubs are European imports. Those players increase worldwide interest in the premier league, allowing broadcast rights for matches to be sold internationally, and also increase match attendance numbers at home. If the number of European players is restricted then the earning power and prestige of the premier league could drop significantly.
That is why suggestions that 152 European players currently working in the premier league – nearly 25% of the total number of players in the league – would not be eligible for work permits are cause for serious concern. In fact, though, all we can say for sure is that the players would not be automatically eligible. That is because automatic eligibility is based on how many competitive matches a player has participated in for their national team over the previous two years. This has to be between 30% and 75%, depending on that teams’ FIFA rankings.
However if a player is not automatically eligible for a permit, they can still apply to the exceptions panel to get a governing body endorsement (GBE) from the Football Association. Points are awarded if a club is offering a high transfer fee or wages, or if a player has previously played in international tournaments at club level. However, even if a player gets enough points the decision is discretionary, which is why no-one can say for certain if a player would or would not be endorsed by the FA.
A weaker pound
Brexit will actually have more impact on clubs in the lower leagues trying to sign European players with less international experience. Those clubs will also not be able to offer the same unlimited transfer fees and high wages as premier league clubs. If Brexit leads to a weaker pound, as many predict it will, then this will also affect transfers as clubs simply won’t be able to afford European players.
Low exchange rates could also lure the best British players abroad, and in the high-finance world of international football many will be keeping a keen eye on the latest foreign exchange (forex) rates. Finding the best forex brokers 2018 is the best way to make sure investments remain one step ahead of an increasingly volatile market.
Loan system overhauled
It’s accepted that top players like N’golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez would not have been automatically eligible to play for English teams, and may not have been able to get work permits at all.
The loan system could also be affected, as the FA has proposed new rules meaning only British and Irish players would be allowed to be loaned between clubs after Brexit. Presently, players who have played for English clubs for three consecutive seasons before turning 21 are classed as “home grown”, but this will almost certainly not be the case post-Brexit.
Currently then the situation remains uncertain. The FA wants to give more opportunities to “native players”, while the premier league wants any European players sought after by top flight clubs to automatically be granted a Tier 2 visa, of the sort currently given to those in jobs paying £159,000 or more. A compromise will have to be reached, but as with much around Brexit, what the eventual outcome will be, no-one can say for sure.